SUSPENDED DUP Assembly member Paul Berry blocked party disciplinary action because he wanted to ensure he received a fair hearing, he said last night.
The Newry and Armagh MLA went to the High Court in Belfast where he won an injunction against party officers, headed by the Rev Ian Paisley, who planned to go ahead with a disciplinary panel hearing against him on Monday.
Mr Justice Weir ordered that the DUP be restrained from considering or continuing with any disciplinary proceedings until they comply with the rules of their own party and those of natural justice, according to a statement by Mr Berry’s solicitors Madden & Finucane.
“I think that Mr Justice Weir’s ruling this morning is something that should be studied by everyone concerned,” said Mr Berry. “I have a strategy in place and I am continuing to implement that strategy.”
In July Mr Berry was suspended from the DUP following newspaper claims he had met a male masseur in a Belfast hotel who alleged a sexual encounter took place.
Mr Berry subsequently denied the allegations.
After the High Court action Mr Berry said starting legal action against the party was not something he wanted to do.
“All I wanted to do is to ensure that the hearing I receive is fair, legal and comes to a just outcome,” he said.
“Acting on my behalf, my lawyers asked for answers to some basic questions to be provided by the party. Madden & Finucane also asked for confirmation that they will be able to properly represent me in the disciplinary process in accordance with natural justice.”
He said that, to date, the issues had not been addressed in a satisfactory manner.
As well as blocking the disciplinary hearing on Monday, the High Court, according to Madden & Finucane, made a number of orders
• specify the breach of discipline or practice alleged against Mr Berry
• confirm that Mr Berry will be afforded a proper opportunity to be heard and to meet the case against him
• clarify the status, composition and power of the disciplinary panel, including the party ruling under which it has been convened, together with its remit
• set out the evidence to be relied upon at the proposed hearing.